Sunday, January 15, 2012

Some like to look at their own asses in their yoga pants; Some like to read

After two controversial pieces (one and two) in the New York Times about yoga this week, I started wondering (again) what's with the Times and yoga.   Only about 7% of Americans practice yoga.  And yet the Times, probably our most influential newspaper, writes on the subject on at least a monthly basis, but usually way more.

From a cynical point of view, maybe the answer to their question about narcissism is yes.  Some people who practice yoga are narcissists and that's why it's been so advantageous for the Times to frequently write about the subject.  Figuratively, they like looking at their own asses in our yoga pants.   They enjoy being absorbed in their own reflection in the mirror of the Times.  Some people who practice yoga (I wouldn't necessarily call them all "yogis") will read the article on injuries and say "yes, that's me, yoga did x, y, z to me.  That yoga teacher did this to me."   They will find validation of themselves in an otherwise fluff piece.  They will find validation because that's what they're looking for,  a reflection of themselves and their experience.

I tend to take a different point of view on the attraction of these articles.  One of the niyamas (one of the 8 limbs of yoga) is svadhyaya, study of the yogic texts and of oneself.  We're supposed to go inward and study ourselves, our behavior patterns but also look outward to the ancient yoga texts and any enlightening spiritual texts.  In other words, yogis read stuff.  We read about yoga, our world, other practices, all kinds of things to learn more about our practice and more about ourselves and our world.  So mine is still a somewhat cynical perspective, but I believe that the Times writes about yoga so frequently as a marketing tool.  In the same way that they write about million dollar homes that the vast majority of Americans can't afford and don't care about (the wealthy tend to have higher levels of education and tend to read more), they write about yoga to appeal to an audience that they know reads.  It's that simple.  It doesn't hurt that we let these articles rile us up a bit and share them on our blogs and with all of our yoga friends.  Nor does it hurt that our friends who don't practice yoga come across these articles and share them with us in order to show that they have an interest in our practices.  Imagine the increase in readership related to these articles!

To me, this says something positive about yogis and reinforces something that I love in the study of yoga.  Unlike many religions, the study of yoga as philosophy or as religion is open to inquiry and debate.  As a matter of fact it is part of the tradition of yoga.

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